Discrimination complaints against the Victoria Theatre and a director will be heard by the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal. (Google Earth)

Racial discrimination complaint against B.C. theatre to proceed

Applications denied to dismiss racial discrimination complaints against theatre, director

The B.C. Human Rights Tribunal has determined a racial discrimination complaint against the Victoria Theatre will proceed.

Complainant Tenyjah Indra McKenna says she was denied a role in a Victoria production because she is black. In August 2017, McKenna emailed director Judy Treloar about auditioning for a role in a local production of Les Belles-Soeurs, a two-act play about four sisters living in Montreal in the 1960s.

READ ALSO: Estheticians can’t be forced to wax male genitals, B.C. tribunal rules

The play was being produced through the Victoria Theatre Guild and Dramatic School [Victoria Theatre or the Langham Court Theatre], a non-profit community theatre group that has presented more than 500 shows with approximately 4,000 actors since 1929.

Tribunal documents released in November say that when Treloar learned McKenna was black, she said that “a black woman could not be a sister or neighbour in the play.”

An excerpt from her email correspondence reads: “As much as I do not like saying this, the fifteen women in this play are Quebecois women and the play is set in Montreal in 1965. A black woman would not be a neighbour or a sister in this play, however, I would love to meet you and hear you read.”

Treloar says her comments were specific to the neighbourhood where the play takes place and denies discriminating against McKenna. She also claims she apologized and offered to meet with the actress.

In McKenna’s emailed response she suggested Treloar was adhering to the outdated tradition of casting only white women in these roles.

“I also wonder – if you are hesitant to cast a black actor to ensure historical accuracy, how many Quebecois or French‐speaking actors will you be casting?” she wrote.

READ ALSO: B.C. woman files human rights complaint alleging racial discrimination by former boss

The Victoria Theatre says it offered McKenna a “reasonable settlement” and made structural changes to address future complaints and “ensure their productions would be more diverse and inclusive.”

In meeting with the group’s general manager and production co-chair after the incident, McKenna asked that Treloar be removed as director.

Treloar was not removed and the play went ahead at the Langham Court Theatre from Nov. 15 to Dec. 2, 2017.

In September 2017, McKenna filed a complaint against both the theatre and Treloar.

In June 2018, the Victoria Theatre made a “with prejudice” settlement offer which included information on updated diversity and communication training and a $1,500 settlement offer to McKenna for injury to her “feelings and self-respect.”

To date, McKenna has not responded to the settlement offer.

Tribunal member Beverly Froese denied both the theatre and Treloar’s applications to have the complaints dismissed, calling the $1,500 settlement offer “not within the reasonable range” and submitting that even after the theatre became aware of and condemned Treloar’s comments, “no steps were taken to ensure that [her] casting decisions were made in an appropriate and non-discriminatory manner.”

Froese writes, “Treloar maintains her belief that having an all‐white cast in the play is historically accurate and appropriate because it is consistent with previous productions of the play across the country.”

READ ALSO: Air Canada forced girl, 12, to remove hijab: civil rights group

Froese also points to Treloar’s submission that she had offered her resignation but was convinced to stay on as director because the theatre “supported her artistic vision for its presentation.”

In her decision, Froese says “given the nature of the allegations and the often subtle and insidious nature of racial discrimination, a full evidentiary hearing is required to consider whether the remedial actions taken by the respondents adequately remedied the alleged discrimination.”



nina.grossman@blackpress.ca

Follow us on Instagram
Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Hospital patient pleads guilty to dumbbell assault of nurse in Abbotsford

Neale Heath admits to assault causing bodily harm in attack last September

VIDEO: Asphalt plant protest takes place outside Mission City Hall

Group from Steelhead oppose proposed project, want public hearing reopened

Westbound Highway 1 roll-over crash slowing commuters in Abbotsford

Accident occurred just west of Mt. Lehman Road, left lane blocked

World-renowned violinist to perform at Abbotsford prison

Gidon Kremer’s concert on Jan. 29 is part of Looking at the Stars’ program

Suspected dine-and-dasher who pulled gun on staff arrested by Abbotsford police

Police recognized man from description of neck and arm tattoos

Protesters block entrance to Victoria government building to support Wet’suwet’en First Nation

A letter with four demands was delivered to the Ministry of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources

VIDEO: Langley woman without a home after houseboat sinks during snowy weather

A Go Fund Me page has been set up to help the Grant’s Landing resident replace her possessions

Boy, 13, arrested after alleged assault involving girl at B.C. middle school

Boy alleged to have used ‘inappropriate levels of force’ to injure the girl

‘Epic sky palace’: B.C. businesses help create dream treehouse for boy recovering from cancer

‘It was kind of a bright shining beacon at the end of a horrible, dark tunnel’

VIDEO: Nickelback gears up for nostalgia tour

Canadian band joins Stone Temple Pilots for a summer tour that includes just one stop in Canada

B.C. teacher suspended for poking student in stomach, pulling another’s ponytail

Teacher also swore in classroom, used Facebook to contact students

Larry Walker Jr. and Sr. keeping expectations low for hall-of-fame induction

Walker needs 75 percent of votes in order to be inducted into Cooperstown

Gene Simmons to launch new Titans of Rock music festival in Grand Forks

The rock legend has partnered with Chuck Varabioff to run Titans of Rock in Grand Forks

Most Read